Monday, March 15, 2010
The Georgia Supreme Court rejected a joint petition for voluntary discipline that had called for a suspension in a range from six months to a year, concluding that the higher-end sanction was "an inappropriate sanction in light of the scope and extent of [the attorney's] fraudulent and deceptive conduct." The attorney was an associate at a law firm doing bankruptcy and commercial foreclosure work. He diverted fees to himself. For a six-year period, he performed investigative services and used false invoices to vendors to get himself paid for the work. The misconduct was discovered during the course of a client's billing review by the firm. The attorney cooperated with the firm's investigation and repaid $526, 922.00.
The attorney has mitigation including no prior discipline and a number of misfortunes including the deaths of his grandparents and his wife's personal injuries and ensuing lawsuit. His wife had also had a miscarriage and a complicated second pregnancy. He also had been treated for depression, was "deeply sorry" and had a number of charitable activities.
A concurring opinion notes that he
is fortunate not to be incarcerated in a state or federal prison for the half-million dollar fraud he perpetrated against his employer, along with the related crimes of identity theft and misuse of someone else's social security number. His multi-year, multi-faceted scheme ended only when he was caught.
The concurring justice wrote "to express how troubling I find it that [the attorney] and, even worse, the State Bar apparently believe that such a short 'break' from practicing law is appropriate discipline for his extended, extensive, and serious misconduct, notwithstanding the factors he presents in mitigation." (Mike Frisch)